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2019 County Annual Meeting


CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE PROPOSED RESOLUTIONS

The 2019 Monroe County Farm Bureau Annual Meeting will be held Thursday, September 19, at the Old Mill Banquet Hall in Dundee.  A reception from 5:00 to 6:00 PM will allow for attendees to take a look at the Smithsonian exhibit “Crossroads: Change in Rural America” that will be on display in the museum.  The meeting and dinner will start at 6:00 PM.  It will be a shorter meeting, focusing on election of board members and both policies and delegates to send to the statewide annual meeting in December.  Some of the recognitions and introductions took place earlier at the centennial picnic celebration in Ida, such as the scholarship winners, 4-H Capitol Experience participants, and the Promotion & Education Committee volunteer of the year.

This meeting is of great importance, since this is a “grass roots” organization; this is where policies developed at the local level come to the regular farmer members for votes.  If approved, these can go on to be incorporated into the policies and actions of our state and national organizations.  Monroe County is well known for developing meaningful policy recommendations that are often adopted into the Michigan policy book and even some of the language finds its way into the national, American Farm Bureau policy book.  The policy development committee consists of seasoned members who have also been involved in state and national farm organizations such as the commodity groups and includes some active young farmers.  The committee has been hard at work again this year drafting proposed policies.  You will be able to read the proposed policies by CLICKING HERE .

Board seats up for election include the Dundee-Summerfield District seat currently held by Matt Reau of Petersburg and the At-Large seat currently held by Mary Webb of Newport.  Any eligible member who would like to run for one of these positions should contact the county office for referral to the nominating committee or plan to be nominated from the floor at the meeting.

Farmers and landowners who are not yet members may attend and should want to join their largest, most effective organization as a way to meet likeminded people, help their industry and learn how to take collective action to make things better for everyone.  Call the Monroe County Farm Bureau Office, 734.269.3275 to register.  This is a free event for our regular farming members; dinner for non-members is $12 each.  Members should respond to their invitations no later than September 10th to confirm their registrations.

The 2019 Monroe County Farm Bureau Annual Meeting will be held Thursday, September 19, at the Old Mill Banquet Hall in Dundee.

County News

2019 County Annual Meeting


CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE PROPOSED RESOLUTIONS

The 2019 Monroe County Farm Bureau Annual Meeting will be held Thursday, September 19, at the Old Mill Banquet Hall in Dundee.  A reception from 5:00 to 6:00 PM will allow for attendees to take a look at the Smithsonian exhibit “Crossroads: Change in Rural America” that will be on display in the museum.  The meeting and dinner will start at 6:00 PM.  It will be a shorter meeting, focusing on election of board members and both policies and delegates to send to the statewide annual meeting in December.  Some of the recognitions and introductions took place earlier at the centennial picnic celebration in Ida, such as the scholarship winners, 4-H Capitol Experience participants, and the Promotion & Education Committee volunteer of the year.

This meeting is of great importance, since this is a “grass roots” organization; this is where policies developed at the local level come to the regular farmer members for votes.  If approved, these can go on to be incorporated into the policies and actions of our state and national organizations.  Monroe County is well known for developing meaningful policy recommendations that are often adopted into the Michigan policy book and even some of the language finds its way into the national, American Farm Bureau policy book.  The policy development committee consists of seasoned members who have also been involved in state and national farm organizations such as the commodity groups and includes some active young farmers.  The committee has been hard at work again this year drafting proposed policies.  You will be able to read the proposed policies by CLICKING HERE .

Board seats up for election include the Dundee-Summerfield District seat currently held by Matt Reau of Petersburg and the At-Large seat currently held by Mary Webb of Newport.  Any eligible member who would like to run for one of these positions should contact the county office for referral to the nominating committee or plan to be nominated from the floor at the meeting.

Farmers and landowners who are not yet members may attend and should want to join their largest, most effective organization as a way to meet likeminded people, help their industry and learn how to take collective action to make things better for everyone.  Call the Monroe County Farm Bureau Office, 734.269.3275 to register.  This is a free event for our regular farming members; dinner for non-members is $12 each.  Members should respond to their invitations no later than September 10th to confirm their registrations.

The 2019 Monroe County Farm Bureau Annual Meeting will be held Thursday, September 19, at the Old Mill Banquet Hall in Dundee.

Ag Students Receive Farm Bureau Scholarships

By Monroe County Farm Bureau



 











Monroe County Farm Bureau has awarded two $750 scholarships to local students aspiring to careers in agriculture.  Interviews were held on May 11 and the committee’s selections were notified the following week.  Recipients of the awards can use the funds to attend college, trade school, or apprenticeship programs which support the agricultural industry.

“These students are the future of the agriculture industry of Monroe County, and we consider these scholarships to be an investment in the future of our community,” said Mark Mathe, president of the Monroe County Farm Bureau.  “Their success will impact the future success of farms and agri-businesses in our area.”

The 2019 winner of the Betty Bliss Scholarship is Madison Bank of Carleton.  It is named for long-time County Office Administrator Betty Bliss, and has been presented annually since 1988.  Madison is attending Michigan State University studying Crop and Soil Sciences with a minor in Environmental Studies and Sustainability.  The daughter of William and Heather Bank, she graduated from Airport High School and has been a member of the Swan Creek 4-H Club for ten years.  Upon graduation from MSU, she plans to become a crop consultant to help serve the farmers of Southeast Michigan.

The 2019 Young Farmer Memorial Scholarship was awarded to Tanner Burkett of Ida.  The oldest scholarship awarded by the bureau, it was renamed five years ago as a tribute to the Young Farmers of our group whose lives were cut short before reaching their full potential.  Tanner is a graduate of Ida High School, and currently attends Michigan State University majoring in Crop and Soil Sciences.  He is the son of Chad and Karen Burkett and has been involved in the Monroe County 4-H program since 2007.  Getting his interest in agriculture from his dad and uncles, he plans to help the industry by becoming an Agronomist.

Winners are eligible to compete in all years of their studies against new applicants, provided they continue their studies in an agriculture-related field.  Since 1988, Monroe County Farm Bureau has invested over $40,000 in the future agricultural leaders of our community!  We wish everyone who competed for these awards the best of luck as they continue their studies.  They are truly the future of agriculture in Monroe County!



Monroe County Farm Bureau has awarded two $750 scholarships to local students aspiring to careers in agriculture.

Members Attend Washington Legislative Seminar



U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg responds to questions from members on the status of USMCA.

The annual Washington Legislative Seminar is a fitting capstone to Farm Bureau’s wintertime meeting season—a summit of the organization’s grass-roots lobbying ethic perched at the tail end of many growers’ availability before the crush of spring planting. After returning home to their farms, attendees from across the state shared their thoughts about the program celebrating its 60th anniversary.

Representing Monroe County at this year’s seminar were Dee Dee and Jerry Heck. Even as longtime members with lengthy track records of Farm Bureau involvement, the Hecks still found fresh value in the experience.

“Even though I have been a longtime member, this trip gave me new enthusiasm for the value of the organization,” Jerry Heck said.

“The time spent with our two Senators was very educational. It was nice being able to ask them questions, and it gave me a different viewpoint of them.”

Gratiot County Young Farmer Marie Zwemmer hadn’t been to D.C. since high school. This time around she got a much better feel for the real workings of the nation’s capital.

“I was on the trade track, which allowed us to meet with both Senators and our Congressman,” said Zwemmer, who attended alongside her husband Frank. “We learned about their thoughts on trade issues and what needs to happen for effective trade to positively impact Michigan farmers.”

She credits her Farm Bureau involvement for making the opportunity more accessible.

“Without my membership, I probably would never have had breakfast with our Senators or sit in our Congressman’s office, sharing concerns about issues impacting agriculture and getting questions answered about what’s being done to solve problems,” Zwemmer said.

“As a Farm Bureau member, I feel my voice matters and I know it’s more likely to be heard. The value of that—being able to influence policy-makers to do what Michigan agriculture needs—I don’t feel like I would have that through any other organization.”

Zwemmer found some valuable lessons in her D.C. experience—lessons she’s eager to implement back home.

“Don’t be afraid to ask policy makers hard questions,” she said. “They represent us, and we have a right to have our questions answered and our voices heard. They don’t know what they don’t know, so it’s up to us to make sure important issues surface and they are getting solved at every level.”

Two of Zwemmer’s neighbors to the south, Johanna and Ronald Balzer of Clinton County, also made the trip to D.C..

“We were very impressed with the opportunity to meet the people making our laws and regulations,” said Johanna Balzer upon returning home. “It was good to see the common humanity that binds us together, putting a face with a name in this echelon of bureaucracy.

“It was a good experience hearing how even experts struggle with making policy decisions. We appreciated meeting others from our U.S. House district—along with Iowa Farm Bureau members—and discussing our common concerns.

“If you have the opportunity to attend the seminar, take it!

Otsego County Farm Bureau President Tim Kauska attended with his wife Pat—their second time lobbying in D.C.   “Our main objective was information gathering and sharing. We take all Farm Bureau events seriously and use the time wisely,” Kauska said.  “Our main concerns are immigration and labor—specifically the H-2A program. That there is still a tremendous amount of work still needed to improve the H-2A Program.”

The annual Washington Legislative Seminar is a fitting capstone to Farm Bureau’s wintertime meeting season—a summit of the organization’s grass-roots lobbying ethic perched at the tail end of many growers’ availability before the crush of spring plan

State News

Michigan Farm Bureau
Jeremy Winsor was MFB's 2019 Educator of the Year.

Nominations for MFB’s 2020 Educator of the Year Award are due no later than Feb. 15.

Suitable nominees include any educator in your county who does an outstanding job incorporating agriculture into their curriculum and strengthening relationships between educators and your county Farm Bureau.

Both agriscience and/or K-12 educators are eligible. Qualified nominees should use innovative teaching techniques to increase their students’ understanding of agriculture.

The winner will be honored at MFB’s 2020 Annual Meeting and will receive a grant for classroom supplies and a scholarship to attend the National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference, June 24-26 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Nominations must be completed online by Feb. 15.

For more information, contact Amelia Miller, 517-679-5688.

Nominations for MFB’s 2020 Educator of the Year Award are due no later than Feb. 15.
Jeremy C. Nagel



Top photo: Kathleen Slater-Hirsch at MFB's 2018 Annual Meeting
Middle photo: Her family's name was part of the Holton Township landscape long before Kathy Slater grew up there, the eldest of five daughters on her parent's Muskegon County dairy farm.
Bottom photo: Kathleen Slater-Hirsch and her son Bill flanked by Lisa Fedewa and Tom Nugent representing the MFB Family of Companies 

Even the most senior Farm Bureau veterans don’t likely remember a time when the state annual meeting didn’t smell like a movie theatre lobby from start to finish. That’s because Kent County Farm Bureau member Kathy Slater-Hirsch has been popping corn at the event for the past four decades.

How she got to become a fixture at the largest annual gathering of Michigan farmers is a story any of those farmers will appreciate, as it embodies the same kind of grit and determination characteristic of those who make their living from the land.

Kathy Slater grew up the eldest of five daughters on a dairy farm in northeastern Muskegon County, near Holton.

“My dad was a lifetime Farm Bureau member — he loved it — his brothers did, too. A lot of them were farmers,” Kathy said between popcorn rushes at MFB’s 2018 Annual Meeting. “He was quite the inventor and did a lot of things first in Michigan. He was the first to have a pipeline milker, bulk tank… He had all sorts of equipment to help him work because he only had girls — no boys!”

Both her parents in those early years embodied the kind of social hospitality Kathy would, later in life, bring full-circle back to the greater Farm Bureau family.

“I remember when they were first married, my mom would have a luncheon in the house and the members would come from all around,” she remembers, describing the rituals that endure to this day among Farm Bureau Community Groups.

“Dad would get everything all spiffy in the barn for the neighbors,” she said. “It was a social event — a good, social gathering of the neighborhood.”

Kathy would eventually leave the farm, graduate from accounting school, and move to Kansas City where she worked for Gulf Oil through the 1970s. She and her husband eventually returned to Michigan to start their family in Grand Rapids.

In more ways than one, their son Bill Hirsch would go on to complete the story.

By the mid-1980s, the same high interest rates and inflation that was putting so many farms into bankruptcy had the Hirsch family in a similar bind.

“And my father just walked away,” Bill remembers. “He left my mom and us — a 13-year-old daughter and a 15-year-old son — under a mountain of debt.”

There were multiple mortgages, massive credit card debt and leins on auto loans. But even under those most dire of circumstances, the dairyman’s daughter from Holton rolled up her sleeves and got to work.

Besides the family and financial disaster her husband left behind, he also walked away from the popcorn wagon they’d bought from a relative a decade earlier — a 1926 Cretors originally designed to be drawn by horses. The antique went straight into storage as a sacred family heirloom, but in the economy of the mid-‘80s, it was forced back into service.

“It needed to help pay for itself,” Bill remembers.

Its first outing was at an antique market in Allegan, a few years before Kathy took on the annual Farm Bureau gig. In addition to popcorning full-tilt at events across multiple states, she had also begun a jewelry business, a carpet-cleaning business and was managing rental units across Grand Rapids.

“My mom can be very, um, strong-willed,” Bill said. “For the war she fought on her own and got through, I love her dearly and I’m just amazed at what she’s accomplished and achieved in her life.

“She never filed for bankruptcy. She never lost the house.

“In my eyes she’s always been very successful, and she did not want to quit or retire ever. She’s said to me countless times, ‘Retiring’s not in my vocabulary.’ She didn’t want to give up.”

But Parkinson’s Disease is also strong-willed, eroding the links between brain and body until Kathy was forced at last onto the sidelines.

MFB’s 2019 Annual Meeting was her last.

In another full-circle twist, Bill is downsizing his own dairy operation to make room for the popcorn wagon that’s been part of his family’s identity since the ‘70s.

“Now I feel like this is a family legacy and it needs to continue. People love it.”

The Allegan antique market is still on the agenda, as is the Farm Bureau annual meeting, but this year it’ll be Bill filling the bags in his mother’s place.

For 40 years of making Michigan Farm Bureau’s annual meeting crunchier, saltier and more buttery than it otherwise would be, Kathy Slater-Hirsch was recently honored with a token of the organization’s appreciation. Earlier this month MFB Human Resources Director Tom Nugent and Lisa Fedewa, Engagement Specialist for Farm Bureau Insurance, delivered flowers, a plaque and other tokens of appreciation to the beloved “Popcorn Lady.”

“She loved the recognition,” Bill said. “She’s an outstanding lady.

“She took care of me now it’s my turn to take care of her.”

From a Muskegon County dairy farm through life’s most daunting crises, the “Popcorn Lady” of MFB’s annual meeting passes her legacy onto the next generation.
Michigan Farm Bureau
Kalamazoo County FB members enjoy a good rapport with U.S. Dist. 5 Congressman Fred Upton, who regularly attends Farm Bureau gatherings to exchange information on ag-related issues.

Close and regular contact with regulators and elected officials is the not-so-secret approach the Kalamazoo County Farm Bureau uses to maintain its high profile among decision-makers. Whether it’s a state agriculture commissioner or a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, no public official is beyond approaching from engaged Kalamazoo members advocating on behalf of their neighbors and farmers statewide.

For its full-court press approach to addressing issues and keeping officials aware of Farm Bureau’s stances on them, the Kalamazoo County Farm Bureau has earned MFB’s 2020 Excellence in Grassroots Lobbying Award.

One longstanding issue that really got Kalamazoo members motivated to take action was the matter of removing zoning conformance from the site-selection GAAMPs (generally accepted agricultural management practices.)

“This idea began here nearly five years ago, when a local township changed its zoning and made agriculture practically illegal — all to stop livestock facilities from being built within a prime farming area,” recalls Kelly Leach, president of the Kalamazoo County Farm Bureau.

Ever since, Kalamazoo members have worked relentlessly to be a continual presence at township board and planning commission meetings, fine-tuning policy addressing the issue and lobbying officials to protect agriculture.

“Through this issue we were even able to engage several un-involved members and spark their interest in strengthening the grassroots power of our organization,” Leach said. “This is a perfect example of the importance and effectiveness of strong grassroots lobbying to solve a problem detrimental to our industry.”

Kalamazoo’s regular schedule is a study in public affairs engagement. Upwards of a dozen elected officials or staffers attend the county’s annual policy development meeting, where they get a front-row seat on local issues affecting local farmers.

That theme continues at the county annual, regularly attended by U.S. Dist. 6 Representative Fred Upton and the region’s state reps and senators.

“We host these events each year to engage and involve our local, state and national officials and allow them to interact with our members,” Leach said.

Congressman Upton himself was the focus of a special roundtable last summer regarding the effects of adverse weather on the region’s farms.

“After touring several fields, Congressman Upton spoke with several farmer members from around the county to discuss policy issues impacting them,” Leach said. “Almost a dozen of our members met with him, his staff and several members of the media.”

Kalamazoo last year also co-hosted a farm tour for elected officials, working with the local Conservation District. Stops included a commercial greenhouse, a fruit and vegetable agritourism operation, a large commercial grain operation and a dairy farm.

“We filled a commercial-size bus with 12 elected officials, 15 of our farmer members and 10 staffers who either rode the bus or attended one of the tour stops,” Leach said.

Officials know they’re welcome at Kalamazoo’s monthly board meetings to hear about issues, share how they'll address them and forge stronger bonds with local farmers.

Kalamazoo members take full advantage of resources for maintaining open lines of communication with the officials who represent them in government and the regulatory staff whose decisions affect farmers’ livelihoods.

For urgent issues, every Farm Bureau member knows there’s no substitute for personal, face-to-face interaction. That’s how Kalamazoo members faced last summer’s challenges to the site-selection GAAMPs.

“Several of our members lobbied specific ag commissioners on the need to remove zoning conformance from the site-selection GAAMPs,” Leach said. “There was also a group of our members who traveled to personally attend and testify on this issue at several ag commission meetings over the past few years.”

Kalamazoo members with particularly close relations to officials are comfortable calling them directly on the phone. Others have made full use of MFB’s new ‘Farm Feed’ texting service to make their voices heard on issues including the Clean Water Rule, USDA emergency provisions, low-interest loans and glyphosate regulation.

The award will be presented at the annual Lansing Legislative Seminar, Feb. 25 at the Lansing Center. For its efforts Kalamazoo County Farm Bureau receives a $500 grant for use toward future grassroots lobbying activities.

 

For its full-court press approach to addressing issues and keeping officials aware of Farm Bureau’s stances on them, the Kalamazoo County Farm Bureau has earned MFB’s 2020 Excellence in Grassroots Lobbying Award.

Coming Events

DateEvent
February2020
Friday
21
2020 Young Farmer Leaders Conference
100 Grand Traverse Village Blvd
Acme,
The Michigan Farm Bureau Young Farmer Leaders Conference is for young members between the ages of 18 and 35. This two-and-a-half-day conference unites 350 young agriculture leaders and industry experts, centers on these members’ professional and personal growth and addresses issues relevant to this generation, including leadership training, management skills and business/family relationships.
February2020
Tuesday
25
2020 Lansing Legislative Seminar
333 E. Michigan Ave.
Lansing, MI
Lansing Legislative Seminar provides an opportunity to learn from expert speakers on policy issues impacting agriculture, help legislative and regulatory leaders understand Farm Bureau policy, and share ideas and talk about local issues with fellow members.
March2020
Monday
9
2020 Washington Legislative Seminar
480 L'Enfant Plaza SW
Washington DC,
The 2020 Washington Legislative Seminar will update farmers on national issues and provide the opportunity to explore the Nation’s Capital. The seminar will provide opportunities for participants to make personal contact with members of Congress and other government leaders to advocate for legislation and/or regulation using Farm Bureau policy, which impacts Michigan agriculture.
March2020
Tuesday
24
Monroe March Board Meeting
8300 Ida West Road
Ida, MI,
Monthly Meeting of the Board of Directors are generally held on the 4th Tuesday of the month at the County FB Office in Ida, unless otherwise indicated. 8:00 PM Start Time